Friday, April 5, 2013

Parshat Ha'Man

Although one may use whatever words one chooses in whatever language one can most fluently express himself when offering prayer to G-d, there is a tradition to recite Parashat Ha’Man as a segulah for parnasah.  Whether as a way to ask for continued financial success or for relief from crippling financial woes, why specifically Parashat Ha’Man?  Maybe the descriptions of am yisrael leaving Egypt with “rechush gadol” would be appropriate or perhaps the parashot describing the wealth of the avot would be better suited?  

Certainly one would point to the obvious.  With the man, the verses clearly state that it was G-d who provided our sustenance in the wilderness and in our own lives we acknowledge that it is only through G-d that the tools and conduits are put in place to sustain our every need.  I would suggest another reason for reciting parashat ha’man.  One of the most astonishing points about the man was that it would not last longer than one day.  Those who took more and those who took less were all satiated and whatever was leftover did not remain the following morning.  Those who took extra portions found them the next day infested with worms.  While on the weekdays extra portions rotted, a miraculous characteristic of the man was seen on shabbat, when we were commanded to take a double portion on Friday to provide for Shabbat’s provisions and the portion collected for Shabbat remained as fresh that day as it had been on Friday.  

I see a lesson in these pesukim that bring us back to the importance of being present, breathing into the moment.  The man gave us one days worth of food.  No more, no less.  Although G-d has brought us to the Land of Israel and given us the awesome responsibility to sow, and plough the fields to harvest the abundance of the Land to nourish ourselves with our daily bread, the man reminds us that each day G-d provides us with exactly what we need and exactly what He wants for us.  When we are fully present we are most cognizant of this truth.  We work and toil maybe we barely eke out a living but G-d always, always provides the means to ensure our needs are fulfilled for that one day.  

Life is unpredictable.  Maybe today I have a little more and maybe tomorrow the stock market crashes.  Just as today’s abundance may disappear tomorrow, so to today’s lack does not cast a cloud over the hope that tomorrow will bring plenty again.

As we head into the first Shabbat after pesach, a Shabbat that has come to be connected with increased intentions and prayers for parnasah tova, it is my prayer that we all recognize what we have in our lives and in noting both our material possessions and spiritual assets, come to greater appreciation and gratitude.  After all, gratitude makes what we have enough.  

The following is a story often repeated by Scott Dinsmore of “Live Your Legend” and I think it’s fitting to share here again to link the ideas of parnasa and living each day fully.   

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

shabbat shalom

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Jewish Dating Power

In response to My Jewish Dating Problem.

The so-called singles crisis storms on unabated with lay people, community leaders and matchmaking “professionals” alike pointing fingers and laying the blame on every conceivable factor.  Howard Kleinman speaks to his own dating struggles and the experiences that ultimately led to his marriage to his wife, Jewish not by birth but by choice.  In his personal reflections he muses over the role the wider community played in his conflicted romantic life torn between the Jewish women he sought out in the name of Jewish continuity and the non-Jewish women he felt an attraction to.

Kleinman faults the communal pressure to marry within the tribe for keeping his guard up, barring real emotional connections with Jewish women and letting guilt fester to extinguish any hope of building relationships with non-Jewish women.  There are myriad reasons attributed to prolonged singledom - too much choice, too little choice of “quality” singles, the overbearing Jewish mother, ascetic piety, the Rabbis, materialistic aspirations, the age gap, emotional immaturity of men, women wearing too much makeup, women refusing to undergo cosmetic surgery, colored tablecloths.  With reasons so varied and far-fetched it’s a wonder that global warming and unicorns haven’t been included in the laundry-list of blame.

All of these disparate elements are in fact linked together.  They all fall under the heading of external factors.  They are all reasons that lie outside of ourselves.  Assimilation and Jewish continuity have been a concern for the Jewish people since Abraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac not from the women of the land of Canaan.  It may be easy to blame the most infamous of cultural stereotypes, Jewish Guilt but I believe Kleinman exposes a deeper struggle and that is the one of knowing, revealing and being your authentic self.

Blame-gaming, finger-pointing and the ensuing guilt has bred a culture of victimization.  We feel it’s out of our hands and have no control, pointing to the system that has failed us.  This is not limited to the dating world.  Ingrained victimization affects every facet of our lives from faulting our weight management battles to a genetic predisposition to attributing poor job prospects to economic policies.  In every instance where we don’t see a positive change, a single kvetchy breath absolves us of responsibility and we relinquish our innate power to the powers that be.  If it’s someone else's fault then I am not to blame and if I am not to blame then there’s nothing I can do about it.  I am powerless.  I am a victim.  When you are a victim, wrought by guilt, your authentic self, your shoresh neshama is clouded over barely accessible to you and certainly hidden from your potential soul-mate.  One can register on every dating site, attend every singles event but without true inner reflection, healthy self-love and nurturing self-compassion you are essentially hiding from your prospective spouse in plain sight.  

I see a tikun in the words “ואהבת לרעך כמוך”.  In this pasuk we’re often so focused on loving the other without truly exploring what it means to love ourselves.  Children grow to adolescents in increasingly distressing homes with parents embroiled in their own romantic and marital rows.  To be sure, one may be hard-pressed to find models of self-love, parents and mentors with acute self-awareness striving for continual self-growth.  

Each of us is imbued with the divine spark, a G-dly soul.  It is that very spark that suffuses our very being with innate power, innate strength to turn inward and encounter our most authentic selves.  It is that G-dly light that breaks through the layers or guilt we allowed to break ourselves into victimization.  By nurturing our innate divine soul we can return the power to ourselves and release it from the hands of the matchmakers, the communal expectations and the white tablecloths.  Self love brings down your guard to reveal your true self so that when you do meet that like-hearted soul you are truly available.  You can be seen. Self-compassion and self-love cultivate deeper, truer love of another.  These are the tools that will foster lasting marriages and strong families devoted to building an eternal Jewish home, a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael.